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From the Vault: Five Ideas to Borrow for Your Next Conference

This blog was originally posted May 25, 2016.


16-ntc-finalComing up with new experiences for attendees at conferences can be difficult. What is affordable? What keeps people connected during a break? What will participants talk about after the conference is over (aside from great sessions and speakers!)?

I had the privilege of attending this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (16NTC) – hosted by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Check out my blog on Five Tech Trends Still Impacting Nonprofits for additional information!

There was a lot going on at the conference besides the numerous breakout sessions – from onsite activities to meetups, progressive parties to active sessions (like Yoga for Geeks). With so much happening, it was difficult to narrow down my favourite experiences from the conference to my top 5 – here they are, in no particular order:

1. Great Plenaries – I especially enjoyed the inspiring Ignite sessions and I’d love to see this format of sharing success stories at more conferences!

Ignite is a fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking presentation format that educates and entertains. Ignite talks give you the opportunity to share your fascinations and passions with the NTC Community.

My favourite Ignite sessions were part of the “NPTech Makers” theme – these presenters had seen a challenge or opportunity and made something of it. Not only did they share personal stories of creating opportunity from adversity that moved us to tears, but they also demonstrated how everyone working in the nonprofit sector is making a difference.

2. Networking – “Birds of a Feather” is an interesting and comfortable approach to networking lunches.

25673392254_d09f7b2f83_zWhen a bunch of extraverts and introverts (like me) get mixed up and told to ‘network’, it can make for some interesting dynamics. However, the “Birds of a Feather” exercise at lunch helped everyone to gravitate to tables with a variety of topics of interest to have a networking chats. Table topics ranged from regional, like the ‘Canadian, eh?’ table, to topical, like ‘Fundraising, Data, and Benchmarks, Oh My!’. Connecting and sharing experiences, whether we were experts or just curious about the topic, led to interesting conversations and introduced us to new colleagues.

3. Digital Connectivity – Of course this was a tech conference; however, NTEN was ready with a great interactive app and preset social media hashtags.

The 16NTC mobile app was fantastic for creating my itinerary, checking into sessions/events, adding photos and comments during sessions and in between, and making connections with other attendees. Each presentation had a hashtag and collaborative notes set up, so I was able to check out discussions at the sessions I missed.

4. Inclusive Space – Conferences are at their best when everyone is welcome, included, and comfortable.

I appreciated the efforts the 16NTC coordinators made to ensure the conference was an inclusive event. From varied levels of access, to gender neutral washrooms, there were frequent reminders that the conference was a safe space for everyone to participate.

26250384426_a0635f2324_z5. Creative Sponsor Add-ons – Creativity and sponsorship really do go well together!

16NTC had some fantastic sponsors who helped make it a great experience overall. My personal favorite was the exclusive showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens one evening at the Tech Museum of Innovation dome IMAX. I felt spoiled!


Thanks to NTEN for a great conference experience! Check out all of their photos, used in this post.

Thank you to The Muttart Foundation for the bursary enabling me to attend this year’s conference, and to Volunteer Alberta for prioritizing professional development and a learning culture.

 

Cindy Walter
Volunteer Alberta

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Celebrate the people power behind volunteers on Volunteer Managers Day

 “Managers of volunteers work hard to make sure volunteer programs run smoothly. They care about keeping volunteers fulfilled and engaged.

And volunteers who feel fulfilled in their roles are more likely to stick to their volunteer commitments.

That’s something worth celebrating.”

-Volunteer Canada


ivmday16November 5 is International Volunteer Managers Day – an opportunity to recognize the people who make volunteering happen in Alberta and around the world.

About 2 million Albertans volunteer. That energy and commitment to our communities is astounding, and it’s important to acknowledge the Volunteer Managers who engage and lead Alberta’s volunteers to success.

Volunteer managers, by that title or another, are crucial to our nonprofit organizations. They are critical to events like charity runs, music festivals, and soccer tournaments. They ensure that food banks, hospital programs, and animal shelters run smoothly. They show young people how to get involved, connect newcomers, and keep seniors active in their communities.

Some celebration events coming up this week:

Volunteer Lethbridge is holding a Volunteer Managers’ Luncheon on November 4. All Volunteer Managers, Coordinators, and Supervisors are invited to attend, meet their peers, have a delicious meal, and enjoy some recognition for their important work!

Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organization’s (ECVO) is celebrating with an International Volunteer Managers Day Reception on November 4. Volunteer Managers, Coordinators, and those who engage volunteers in their professional role are invited to attend, feel appreciated, make new connections, and delve into the topic of balancing many roles within one job.

International Volunteer Managers Day was founded in 1999 in the United States, and was first celebrated on November 5 in 2008. As the day’s popularity grows, we hope an understanding and appreciation of the hard (not to mention necessary) work of Volunteer Managers grows too.

Find more on the day’s history and purpose on the International Volunteer Managers Day website.

How are you celebrating Volunteer Managers at your organization and in your community? We’d love to hear about your plans in the comments!

 

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Guest Post: The Art of Disruption – A Reflection

This post originally appeared on the Tamarack Institute blog on July 25, 2016.

Join Tamarack in Toronto this September for the Community Change Institute!


Last week, Tamarack’s Liz Weaver and Paul Born hosted a webinar on Community Change: The Art of Disruption as part of a Community Change Webinar Series. In this conversation Liz and Paul discussed some emerging ideas and strategies that are disrupting how some communities today are responding to the complex issues that they face.

There were quite a few ideas that emerged from this conversation, but three in particular stood out to me:

Number 1 | The Power of Connection

Number 2 | The Power of the People

Number 3 | The Power of the BIG 5

The Power of Connection

Liz began the conversation with the acknowledgment that in today’s society people seem to be so connected, yet so disconnected at the same time. We see this in everyday life – we are constantly connected and dialed in to one another’s lives via Text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the list goes on and on. But at times it feels that despite this constant online connection, many people are experiencing less and less real-life, meaningful face-to-face interaction.Diverse_Hands.jpg

The same could be said of the many organizations that are working tirelessly to create real, meaningful change in our communities and across the globe. Thanks to technology we see change-makers across the globe praising one another’s work, sharing their successes and supporting one another – we also see the criticism, the analysis of each other’s failures and at times, outright competition. Within the realm of community change, individuals and organizations alike are so much more aware of what other organizations are doing and what is happening in other communities, but we are not as involved or connected as we could be. Change-makers are often so disconnected in their work and when they do connect it is often very surface-level.

During the webinar, Liz reminded us that there are so many wonderful organizations doing incredible work but many are not achieving the big-scale change that they so desire. When you look at groups that are creating real traction in their communities you notice that there is something different going on and I think the answer circles back to this idea of connection.

To create real change, both in our individual lives and within our communities we need to connect – real-life, meaningful face-to-face interaction. We need to completely disrupt the ways that we have existed and worked within the realm of community change thus far and do something different.

The Power of the People

A second aha moment that came from this recent webinar was in regards to the power of the people. As Paul explored ideas of community change and disruption he was simply overflowing with the possibilities of people. Paul reflected on the ways in which Canadian citizens have completely stepped up when it comes to positive community change, citing the example of many Canadian citizens’ support of Syrian refugees. He also mentioned incredible examples of leadership happening in the realm of poverty reduction in cities like Toronto and Edmonton. We are beginning to see a huge shift in social responsibility – where people and their cities are no longer waiting for big governments to step in and take action, but rather the people and the cities themselves are becoming the leaders in large-scale social change.

Protest-1.jpgWe are in a wonderful time where it seems people are no longer waiting on the world to change – they are creating that change. They have decided to throw out the rule book and write their own. This is disruption at it’s finest.

Citizens want to be involved, so let’s involve them. Citizens want to be engaged, so let’s engage them. Paul reminds us that within the realm of community change it is our responsibility and our privilege to truly and deeply engage the people within our communities who are outside our organizations. There is definitely something to be said about the power of the people and their ability to disrupt and impact real change.

The Power of the BIG 5

During the webinar, Liz and Paul also touch on Tamarack’s five BIG ideas for making significant change:5.png

  1. Collective Impact
  2. Community Engagement
  3. Collaborative Leadership
  4. Community Development and Innovation
  5. Evaluating Community Impact

Our Idea Areas are key principles and techniques that help community leaders to realize the change they want to see. It doesn’t matter what issue you are facing – whether you are tackling poverty reduction, dealing with food access issues, wanting to improve health or trying to deepen the sense of community in your city – the thinking around these five areas and the application of the guiding techniques will help you to achieve impact.

The question we must ask ourselves is this: How do we use these five BIG ideas to create positive disruption within the realm of community change? And what does the future of these five key idea areas look like?

Collective Impact

Liz talks about the future of Collective Impact – Collective Impact 3.0 if you will – and the emphasis on evolving from a shared-agenda, to a community-wide agenda. In order to create real, disruptive change the goals of a Collective Impact initiative must be owned by the entire community, not just the folks doing the ground work.

*Liz and Mark Cabaj will be hosting a webinar on Collective Impact 3.0 – Register now! They will also be writing a paper on Collective Impact 3.0 so keep your eyes open for this!

Community Engagement

In our cities and communities, a new generation of community engagement is emerging. People want to be engaged in decisions, they want to work together and they want better outcomes for themselves and their neighbours.

Paul talks about how he used to look at community engagement in three stages: inform, consult, and involve. But over the years has discovered that we can no longer separate these three pieces, we must inform, consult and involve in one stride. Engaging citizens in every stage is a critical component of any work that will impact community in any way.

Collaborative Leadership

In the conversation about Collaborative Leadership a listener asked the following question How can we better engage business in Collective Impact initiatives?” To which Liz responded that there are business leaders “with heart.” The more important question, Liz suggests, is how do we engage those business leaders who have heart and how do we connect them with community change?

Liz suggests that the best tactic to address this issue is to:

  1. Do your homework
  2. Find the right fit and engage in real conversations (remember that thing I said about connection? It works – we promise;))
  3. Don’t stress about the “no” – focus on the positive outcomes

The future of collaborative leadership is a future with positive, cross-sectoral relationships that disrupt the current boundaries set in place.

Community Innovation

In their conversation, Liz and Paul stress that positive disruption can come at a systems level but also at the level of community programming. Often times innovation is happening right on the ground, centred within a community. This is the type of innovation that is key to real community change and this is the type of innovation that should be shared.

This is the kind of work that we want to highlight at Tamarack – both at the Community Change Institute this fall but also in our everyday work.

Evaluation

Liz says “evaluation is key but what can we do about learning and sense-making amidst evaluation?” – It’s time to take evaluation to the next level. We need to begin to think about what we can truly learn from the evaluation process and results and really make sense of what is discovered.

For me, the Art of Disruption is about engaged people and organizations rising up, breaking through boundaries and working together in new ways. The Art of Disruption requires flexibility and encourages the evolution and adaptation of perspective and practice.

I recently attended a one-day event with Paul Born in London, Ontario and at one point he jokingly began to sing a song that I feel sums up the Art of Disruption beautifully…

“The more we get together, together, together – the more we get together the happier we will be!”

 Continue Learning: 

Happy Learning!

Sienna Jae Taylor
Tamarack Institute

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Five Ideas to Borrow for Your Next Conference

16-ntc-finalComing up with new experiences for attendees at conferences can be difficult. What is affordable? What keeps people connected during a break? What will participants talk about after the conference is over (aside from great sessions and speakers!)?

I had the privilege of attending this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (16NTC) – hosted by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Check out my blog on Five Tech Trends Still Impacting Nonprofits for additional information!

There was a lot going on at the conference besides the numerous breakout sessions – from onsite activities to meetups, progressive parties to active sessions (like Yoga for Geeks). With so much happening, it was difficult to narrow down my favourite experiences from the conference to my top 5 – here they are, in no particular order:

1. Great Plenaries – I especially enjoyed the inspiring Ignite sessions and I’d love to see this format of sharing success stories at more conferences!

Ignite is a fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking presentation format that educates and entertains. Ignite talks give you the opportunity to share your fascinations and passions with the NTC Community.

My favourite Ignite sessions were part of the “NPTech Makers” theme – these presenters had seen a challenge or opportunity and made something of it. Not only did they share personal stories of creating opportunity from adversity that moved us to tears, but they also demonstrated how everyone working in the nonprofit sector is making a difference.

2. Networking – “Birds of a Feather” is an interesting and comfortable approach to networking lunches.

25673392254_d09f7b2f83_zWhen a bunch of extraverts and introverts (like me) get mixed up and told to ‘network’, it can make for some interesting dynamics. However, the “Birds of a Feather” exercise at lunch helped everyone to gravitate to tables with a variety of topics of interest to have a networking chats. Table topics ranged from regional, like the ‘Canadian, eh?’ table, to topical, like ‘Fundraising, Data, and Benchmarks, Oh My!’. Connecting and sharing experiences, whether we were experts or just curious about the topic, led to interesting conversations and introduced us to new colleagues.

3. Digital Connectivity – Of course this was a tech conference; however, NTEN was ready with a great interactive app and preset social media hashtags.

The 16NTC mobile app was fantastic for creating my itinerary, checking into sessions/events, adding photos and comments during sessions and in between, and making connections with other attendees. Each presentation had a hashtag and collaborative notes set up, so I was able to check out discussions at the sessions I missed.

4. Inclusive Space – Conferences are at their best when everyone is welcome, included, and comfortable.

I appreciated the efforts the 16NTC coordinators made to ensure the conference was an inclusive event. From varied levels of access, to gender neutral washrooms, there were frequent reminders that the conference was a safe space for everyone to participate.

26250384426_a0635f2324_z5. Creative Sponsor Add-ons – Creativity and sponsorship really do go well together!

16NTC had some fantastic sponsors who helped make it a great experience overall. My personal favorite was the exclusive showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens one evening at the Tech Museum of Innovation dome IMAX. I felt spoiled!


Thanks to NTEN for a great conference experience! Check out all of their photos, used in this post.

Thank you to The Muttart Foundation for the bursary enabling me to attend this year’s conference, and to Volunteer Alberta for prioritizing professional development and a learning culture.

 

Cindy Walter
Volunteer Alberta

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How do we create advocates, catalysts, and influencers for the nonprofit sector?

cropped-banner2This May, Volunteer Alberta is excited to participate in CACSL Conference 2016: Impact for Sustainability, an exciting conference bringing together community and post-secondary on the topic of Community Service Learning.

Our Creative Director, Katherine Topolniski, explains why Volunteer Alberta got involved in the conference:

“One of the most exciting trends in volunteerism is Community Service learning. The education system is moving quickly in this direction, students are being encouraged and supported to explore avenues for learning in their community. Students are enhancing their education with real world experiences, while making a difference.

This is an exciting new trend in Canada with benefits we have yet to fully comprehend. Will students become advocates, catalysts and influencers for community and the nonprofit sector? How will the experiences of today’s youth emerge as they explore career paths and embark on their professional journey?”

Katherine spoke more about the Impact for Sustainability conference to Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE), another organization participating in the conference. Below is their blog about the upcoming conference, originally published on their website:


CFICE-LOGO-BG-LRG-1-240x215Volunteers often serve as the backbone of community initiatives, and the Volunteer Canada network wants to help organizations maximize their potential.

As part of the CACSL Conference 2016, which takes place May 25 to 27 at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Volunteer Alberta is hosting a networking series where academics, volunteer centres, and community organizations can share their knowledge and experiences.

“We are intentionally setting the scene for integrated dialogue and productive networking between [these three groups],” says Katherine Topolniski, Creative Director for Volunteer Alberta.

kbtphotography_034“In one of the Network Sessions we are focusing on discovering possibilities and creating opportunities to work together,” explains Topolniski. “We’re working to create the space in this session for participants to begin to shape the next steps they might take after the conference to initiate, grow, deepen, or scale current and/or emerging work. This is an opportunity for participants to move from recognizing the potential to beginning to harness it.”

In addition to this series of networking events, the conference will be exploring the theme of “Impact for Sustainability” with presentations from a number of Community Service Learning (CSL) and Community Engagement (CE) organizations – including those associated with CFICE.

Confirmed speakers for the conference include:

  • Patti H. Clayton, an Independent Consultant with over fifteen years of experience as a practitioner-scholar and educational developer in community-campus engagement and experiential education
  • Chelsea R. Willness, a passionate champion of community-engaged scholarship who currently holds two national research grants (SSHRC) for her research focusing on how stakeholders respond to organizations’ environmental practices and community involvement
  • Leah K. Hamilton, a Principal Investigator (SSHRC Insight Development Grant) and Co-Investigator (SSHRC Insight Grant) for two research projects focused on various ways to facilitate the settlement and integration of immigrants in Canada
  • Stephen Hill, an associate professor in the new School of Environment at Trent University whose research focuses on environmental and renewable energy management and policy in Canada

The conference will also feature engaging lunch panels focused on inter-organizational collaboration in environment sustainability, community engagement with First Nations communities, and a panel on Community Prosperity.

For more information about the conference, or to register, please visit http://cacslconference2016.ca/

Final registration is Thursday, May 19.

 

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